We live in a precarious world. Often, in our country of freedom and plenty, we forget that. Especially we can forget what the rest of the world is like for women.
It took a long, arduous fight by women activists in this country to attain basic rights, such as the ability to vote and own property. Amazingly, that only occurred in the last century. But attain them, we did.
In the rest of the Western world, women also have such basic rights. But for much of the planet, they don’t.
The horrors of the Taliban bring this most to bear, where the roles of women are seen quite differently from how we understand them. So differently, it seems more like planets apart than oceans. Khalid Hosseini’s A Thousand Splendid Suns brings this home quite starkly.
That book spans 30 years, exploring Afghan society in the three decades of anti-Soviet jihad, civil war, and Taliban cruelty. Not much changes over that time, at least in the lives of women.
Enter of course in real life Malala Yousafzai, who as a young Pakistani girl attended a school that her father founded. The Taliban began attacking girls’ schools. How did Malala react? She gave a speech entitled, “How dare the Taliban take away my basic right to education?”
We all know what happened next.
The Taliban shot her.
For going to school. For speaking out. For daring to say that females had the right to an education and a life.
Yes, a different world from ours, indeed.
In 2014, she received the Nobel Peace Prize—the youngest person ever to do so. And while still today a Taliban target, she continues to advocate for all girls being allowed the basic right of an education.
So what is the role of women in this world? It’s easy for us to hang out in the US, basking in the freedoms earned from our own historical activists. So often young women today don’t even know the history of our own women’s suffrage movement. And while we’ve haven’t been shot for going to school, the basic underlying sentiment comes from the same place: Women are second to men.
Somewhere along the way, in our country, the term ‘Feminist’ became a 4-letter word. It went from the original meaning of a woman having the same rights as men, being paid the same as men, to something akin to hating men.
Sure, there are females who hate males and vice versa. But that’s the minority. The Feminists I know—and I know plenty!—love the men in their lives every bit as much as those who take a submissive role. And this meaning didn’t get subverted on its own . . . But that’s another story 🙂
Now, more than ever, the world needs strong women entrepreneurs. Women who form companies and change lives—just by doing what they do. The empowerment of women has always been up to us as women. Funny thing about power—no one ever gives it to you. You have to earn it by making inroads, working hard, having a vision.
And finding the courage to stand up.
If a 12-year-old girl, living in a terroristic society where females are shot just because they attend school can do this, why can’t we? What excuses do we have?
As Dale Carnegie said, “Inaction breeds doubt and fear. Action breeds confidence and courage. If you want to conquer fear, do not sit home and think about it. Go out and get busy.”
Which is exactly what Malala did. And so can we.
What is it you’re not pursing? How can your gifts change this world?